Saturday, January 19, 2008

Empire´s Workshop Book Review

Today I finished "Empire´s Workshop" by Greg Grandin. While in New Orleans in December I attended a presentation at Tulane University by Grandin and bought his book Empire´s Workshop. Like my friend who suggested that many people in the United States and Europe should go to Haiti to change their consciousness to become better human beings, I also suggest that many people should read this book for the same reason. The book is a great read, very informative and well documented with ample references.

I found it highly interesting that there was actually a time when the United States, with the policy of the "New Deal" under the the leadership of Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930´s and the 1940´s treated Latin American countries with a measure of respect and cooperation that led to an unprecedented level of development and economic prosperity throughout Latin America. That this shining example of economic prosperity was used by the United States as a model in the post World War II reconstruction of Europe and Asia. That this very real and tangible economic co-prosperity in the America´s had many hopeful Latin American voices present at the formation of the United Nations agreeing with this this notion of co-prosperity based on respect for national sovereignty. That sadly, with the rise of Communism used as the excuse, all this advancement under the policies the New Deal were thrown out the window in favor of supporting dictators and governments that rolled back the progress made during these hopeful years.

What became clear to me after reading this book is that the world was actually plunged into World War III during the presidency of Reagan. This is the time when the gloves came off and American reverted to the use "Hard Power" and we truly started living in Orwellian times where as Grandin puts it, "the use of this incredibly violent and brutal explicit use of it, unapologetic use of violence and allying with the paramilitaries and death squads, but then justifying it in idealistic terms. In El Salvador, the U.S. supported an anti-communist regime in order to contain an insurgency that resulted in the deaths of something between 60,000 and 70,000 civilians. In Nicaragua, we supported an anti-communist insurgency, which resulted in the murder of 30,000 to 40,000 civilians. And in Guatemala, we provided moral justification for a regime that was committing genocide, murdering somewhat around 200,000 civilians, mostly Mayan Indians. And that was throughout the 1980s. So when somebody like Margaret Thatcher says that Reagan won the Cold War without firing a shot, there’s a certain kind of historical amnesia with those kind of pronouncements which get circulated in the mainstream press".

This time of the Reagan Revolution, was when the top third of the America population was able to win control of the government and amass enormous wealth, much to the detriment of the rest of the population. Reagan´s use of violence cloaked in altruistic language and his economic policy that if the rich got richer, the wealth would "Trickle Down" to benefit everyone, paved the way for the mess that the United States is in right now.

At the close of the book, Grandin talks about the independpendence movements that have been gaining ground throughout Latin America and how they relate to the upcoming 2008 elections.

Grandin says, "What, then will be Washington´s long-term response to this independence movement? One could hope that the Democrats would seize the moment to assert thier commitment to nonintervention and to work with economic nationalist to promote a fair and sustainable economic policy. Depending on the country, such a policy would include land reform, government regulation of foreign investment and currency speculation, more equitable contracts with multinationals, debt relief, increased spending on welfare, education, health care, and public works, and in the U.S., a just Immigration policy.

Don´t count on it. Unlike after WWII, when a confident corporate class threw it´s backing behind the New Deal political liberalism at home and at least some reform capitalism abroad, the financiers of today´s Democratic Party are too deeply invested in war production and speculative captial and too intensely committted to keeping the third world open. They will not brook any sustained attemp to restructure the global economy in a more equitable direction."

Further on Grandin says, "If there is a change in American diplomacy, it will come from the citizens who mobilized to oppose the occupation of Iraq and who in 2006 gave back the Congress to the Democratic Party".

Latin America is, finding it now possible to emerge from being under the boot of foreign domination for the first time in 500 years. Mercosur is proving to be a viable organization of South American member countries representing a very real challenge to U. S. hegemony. It is an exciting time to be here.

To listen or read about the book through an interview on "Democracy Now" with Greg Grandin click on this Democracy Now link.
Go to thislink at Amazon to read a review or order the book..
Click on the American Empire Project to read more about the project that this book is part of.


Anonymous said...

hey uncle don,
Its Garrett and I just wanted to tell you that I got your laptop runnning with internet. Its really nice and I'm really happy that you let me borrow it. Currently its helping alot with homework because I dont have to deal with waiting for my brother to get off the PC. Thanks alot and I hope that you are having an awsome time!

Michael Peck said...

Hello Don,

I just spent some time on Greg Grandin's web site (Thanks for the links!!!!!) - fantastic eye-opening stuff. You are a great inspiration to me still. It was sometimes edgy being on the team with you, but always real and bringing out the best in me.

Thank you for being you!!
Miss the days of being best friends and in constant contact.

Your brother, Michael Peck